Posts Tagged With: Mumbai

India… The good, the bad, and the downright evil

Well India has provided some of the best and some of the worst experiences of our lives. In some areas the scenery, people and food are among the prettiest, friendliest and tastiest (respectively) we have seen, met or had…in other areas …not the same story. Despite this we covered a lot of the country, saw a lot of sights, places, cities and have some insights that may prove useful to future travellers.

India certainly has a lot positive to be said about it and there are some must see items that make planning a trip very worthwhile. There are also some places that quite frankly are ruined by the people that you are forced to encounter along the way. Our trip was more low budget that some but higher budget than the typical backpacking style holiday.

We spent our money on the food, beer, accommodation and transport…choosing to pay that little bit more for the extra space and comfort and things like private bathrooms. That said…accommodation was generally about $20 a night for both of us and at its cheapest was $10. For not much extra (than our allowance) per day you could plan a very nice Indian sojourn and by paying the little bit extra can avoid some of the shonks that we hit along the way. You will be overpaying for what you get but the extra money takes away some of the headaches and surely that is worth a little more.

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Indian Must dos

With the beauty of hindsight this is where I would go to if I was to plan a short (2-3 week) holiday in India (in no particular order).

Agra – Taj Mahal and the fort…this one is obvious but they truly are that good. I suggest that 2-3 days is about the right amount of time here.

Amritsar – golden temple and the border show. Can be done in a one full day journey if time is tight but the people and food are so nice you will want to stay more.

Aurungabad – Ellora and Ajanta caves…absolutely stunning. Two days is about right. This was the surprise for me, had never heard of them but were the highlight of the trip.

Hampi – absolutely fantastic with so very much to see, need about 2 full days but will want more as the people and place are so good.

Jaipur – this has 3 forts, temples, a palace and all the old city walls and is again worthy of about 3-4 days depending on your schedule and timings. Jaipur is in Rajasthan and most of Rajasthan is pretty similar with forts and palaces etc. They are all different but are also very similar so if time is against you Jaipur would be my pick.

Ooty – the Indian blue mountains (Nilgiris) with a toy train ride to boot. Stunning scenery and clean by Indian standards.

Udaipur – we loved this place. The water and lakes make it very different to the other sights you tend to see. If you come in early in the morning you could see everything in a day and a bit so one overnight would be about right..add an extra night if you want to hit the fort and Jain temples which are a bit of a way out. We stayed for 6 days and enjoyed it all but most people will not have as much time.

The end.

My list would leave out 2 key ones on almost everyone else’s list and they are

Goa – a must for beach goers…we could have skipped it. It was nice and we had a good time but unless you are in dire need of sand and water it could be skipped.

Kerala – the cruise of the back waters was nice and a good treat. Our cruise was probably a bit long and one to two nights would be about right. There are afternoon cruises but you stay in the main channel with all the boat traffic.

Great if you have extra time

Now if you have a little more time available then these are my choices for good second tier spots with nice attractions, people etc

Darjeeling – tea fields, toy trains and the Himalayas on a clear day.
Hyderabad – an Indian city that is really trying to get it right.
Jaisalmer – desert, fort, safari. Nice if you have the time.
Jodhpur – nice place..very Rajasthan with forts and palaces.
Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip at the edge of 3 oceans
Mumbai – beautiful architecture, the gateway to India and Elephanta island.
Pondicherry – the French parts

Nice if you have LOTS of time

Mangalore – still the best food I have eaten in India (just not much to see)
Cochin – a nice afternoon but not too much to see
Trivandrum – good zoo and some nice architecture
Bangalore – not too much going on here

Don’t even bother

Bhubaneswar – caves and temples…not that fantastic and the experience is wrecked by the lying and cheating of what feels like almost everybody in the town. The worst that India has to offer.

I have left New Delhi off this list entirely because my experiences in New Delhi were entirely terrible. I came to Delhi 4 times (including transits) and had an atrocious experience each and every time. I may have been entirely unlucky…or it may well be the worst capital city on the planet, full of lying cheating scoundrels. Alas as New Delhi is a major transport hub you may just have to stop here to get to some of the nicer parts of India. Should you wish to do such a trip then I will let you form your own New Delhi opinion and would be happy to hear it.

I will leave the India topic with a few of my favourite moments…

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And my all time favourite moment…was…

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Farewell India…it has been an experience…

 

 

 

 

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Mumbai / Bombay

Was kinda dreading this one after the New Delhi experience…our first foray back into the big city. My fears were totally unfounded and Mumbai is a delight. There are sights everywhere you look. The architecture is amazing and according to wiki blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic and contemporary architectural styles. Not really sure what all this means being an artistic heathen but every time you turn around another amazing looking building appears.

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We did the wander on a Sunday when everything was shut and everyone had the day off. This had the nett effect of clearing every automobile and other form of transport (see Jill’s planes, trains and automobiles section) off the roads so that you could walk along normally manic streets in relative peace. Combine with this the fact that all the side streets became makeshift cricket pitches meant that nobody was driving anywhere and the entire city became a giant series of cricket games. The cars that were out and about were immaculate classic vehicles to be admired and envied even if you a not a car enthusiast.

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Mumbai is very expensive compared to everywhere else we have been so far but it is also a lot cleaner and with less cows. We did the wander again not on a Sunday and got hit with the normal state that is Mumbai. That state is hectic. We ambled along the Back Bay which is the inlet between Mumbai and the Arabian Sea, taking you past places like Nariman Point and Chowpatty Beach. A little further around the point is the suburb of Colaba which is an area that is home to the famous Gateway of India and the iconic Taj Mahal hotel and the launching point for the Elephanta Caves where we spent New Year’s Day.

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Chowpatty beach is the 200 meter stretch of sand that the Indian authorities actually clean. The remaining 5 km stretch along the waterfront was polluted and toxic and even on a 30+ degree day there was almost nobody within 30 meters of the actual water. From here we headed over to the Dhobi Ghat which is the laundromat of Bombay. It is basically a bunch of open air concrete tubs where thousands upon thousands of people beat, bash and scrape the laundry of an entire city clean. Having seen this we decided to wait until our next stop for a laundry run.

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We had headed to the Gateway of India on the 31st of December but it was feral with tourists both domestic and foreign. We decided to try again early the next day (first ferry to Elephanta Island at 9am) which was the greatest idea we have had. The morning run was quiet, calm and we actually were up before most of the touts etc.. We checked out the caves and returned at about 2pm to find all hell breaking loose. As we were leaving an almost full boat was waiting for the last few people to load before departure. It was pretty full and we were in no hurry so decided to wait for the next boat…while we were waiting an arrival boat turned up and was about to depart empty…I gestured…he nodded…and we got on…leaving the full boat on the dock and us having the whole boat to ourselves.

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After the one hour cruise we were waiting to dock we watched the local tourists load the earlier boat…this involved people (literally) launching themselves from the dock onto the boat to be one of the first aboard to get a seat. Once full the boat kept loading with people pushing and shoving so that the entire vessel looked like a sardine tin. We watched on in awe…laughing…but knowing that we were next.

Our turn. The boat pulled in and the dock was jammed with hundreds of people all needing to be on our boat. I took position and launched prior to a full docking as I knew what was coming. Jill who was right on my hip got caught in the counter launch…and the next thing I heard was my darling bride screaming “back off”. I turned to see her stuck on the entrance to the boat as Indians tried to trample her while attempting to board. I was about to come to the rescue only to find the bride holding her own, punching and pushing back the surging crowd with a face and a tone of voice usually only reserved for me (husbands you know what I mean). The sea of people parted and she calmly stepped off.

The other magic thing that Mumbai did was to introduce us to Thali. For the uninitiated this is a tray with about 9 dishes on it for a fixed price. They will continue to fill everything until you say stop. This includes the rice the breads and all of the elements…We have decided that we like Thali…

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